It’s time to go back to the beginning! MGM has released the must-have for any Stargate fan’s DVD collection: Stargate SG-1, Children of the Gods, Final Cut. That’s right, the Pilot! The first adventure after the feature film that began the phenomenon!
When Brad Wright and Robert Cooper told us at the Vancouver 2009 Convention that there would be new material, they weren’t kidding! There are several insightful new scenes, including a briefing room scene following the team’s return from Abydos, and further explanation as to why Teal’c chose that moment to rebel against his god! Some of the material answers questions and some raises more questions than it answers.
You also will notice some new angles that, while identical to the original scenes in context, provide the audience with a slightly different view of the surroundings. New lines abound, some funny, and some that just help the whole situation make just a little bit more sense than it did before.
Families will be glad to know that the ghastly rated R scene is gone. It was something that Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner had never wanted to include in the first place but were required to add by the network, and so it was no doubt one of the first things to go. So parents, you don’t have to cover your kid’s eyes anymore!
Given advancements in visual effects, many of the original effects have been redone, much to the story’s advantage. Remember the transporting Death Glider? In the original, it hovered near the gate, lowered rings to deposit Apophis and his minions on the ground, and then strangely transformed into what we later came to recognize as a Death Glider. Knowing it’s dimensions from later episodes made the idea that a Death Glider could transport over a dozen people with rings insane. Wisely, the producers took this chance to correct that singular instance of impossible science and replaced the Tardis-like Death Glider with a cargo ship with an escort of 2 Gliders!
Beyond that, the soundtrack has been remastered. In the original, the music came largely from the feature film, composed by David Arnold. Though that music is fantastic, it was not designed for a television series. As a result, the original cut’s score was rather heavy handed. For the new cut, Joel Goldsmith has done a stunning job, weaving in both old classic themes and a few new themes that still resonate well within the tradition of the show. Also, Chris Judge has revoiced his lines, and though it is some mystery to me why they felt that was needed, the reasoning behind it is explained in both the audio commentary and the extra features on the DVD.
Last but far from least, is the commentary. Never before have fans had access to commentary for any episode preceding season 4’s ‘Small Victories’. Not only do we now have commentary, but we have it from the best possible sources. Brad Wright and Richard Dean Anderson! Richard has never before contributed to an audio commentary, and it is worth every second! Brad explains the changes that were made – and I meannearly every one of them! – while Richard reminisces about the filming with either an accuracy that will delight you or an inaccuracy that will make you laugh when Brad tries to correct it!
Overall, the new cut is well worth it’s purchase price. However, I feel I must warn some of the die-hard fans – as I am one such fan – of the omissions that have been made. If you do not know the Pilot line for line by heart, I recommend you buy the new cut and enjoy it without reading further. If you know it like the back of your hand and you hate it when you mess up the lines, you might want read on.
Even though I have not watched the original cut in months, I know it by heart. I can understand why some of the omissions were made – it did pick up the show’s pace – but it still gets to me.
Remember ‘Learning Curve’ where Sam Carter tests her new naquada reactor and sets off the alarms on the base? General Hammond calls her lab and says, “In the future Major, before you activate any device that includes the word reactor, I would appreciate it if you would notify me.” That was pretty much what my mom said to me as I watched this new cut. “Will you please let me know when you are going to be watching something that will make you yell at the TV? I keep hearing all these noises from your room and I don’t know if you’re ok!”
Among the first omissions were Jack O’Neill’s jokes to General Hammond when they first meet. The book joke is gone, as is the “Daniel was a scientist. He sneezed a lot. Basically he was a geek, sir.” line. While this chips away at the audience’s impression of Jack as the irreverent ex-colonel, some added lines make up for it later.
Remember that moment when Sam Carter reaches out and touches the event horizon before Jack shoves her through the gate? Yep. Gone.
Another line that changed which tore at my heart was as follows: “It took us 15 years and 3 super computers to MacGyver a dialing system for the gate on Earth!” That wonderful cultural reference and jib at Richard Dean Anderson’s previous series was removed, because as Brad explained, people didn’t really need that to remind them that Richard was MacGyver. Brad, let me show you my frowny face.
There were so many changes that even an ubber-geek like myself found it hard to catch them all in the first viewing, but there were two that were the most glaring by far because they both have implications to later episodes.
First is the line that has probably haunted Amanda Tapping’s dreams. It’s pretty well known among fans that poor Sam was cast as a feminist on a soapbox for much of the first season. The producers seem to have tried to rectify that by removing some of her lines. The G.I. Joe verses Major Matt Mason discussion is gone, her explanation of why Jack and his men have to accept her addition to the team is gone, as is the Captain versus Doctor argument, which let’s face it, didn’t hold up anyway.
However, the line of greatest importance, now gone, is as follows: “I’m an Air Force officer just like you are, Colonel, and just because my reproductive organs are on the inside instead of the outside, doesn’t mean I can’t handle whatever you can handle.” Yes, that’s right. It’s gone. This has pretty strong implications. In ‘Moebius Part 1’, Geeky Carter makes fun of the line. “Now, just because my reproductive organs are on the inside instead of the outside, doesn’t… God! That’s horrible! Who would ever say that?” Then, there is the infamous puppet scene of ‘200’ in which Puppet Carter gives the line amongst her montage of other quotes.
So what happens when new fans who watch the new cut get to ‘Moebius’ and ‘200’? Won’t the inside joke be lost on them?
Finally, the producers made a change that I can’t figure out. In the original cut, as the team evacuates though the gate we see how Major Charles Kawalsky gets infected with a young Goa’uld symbiote that leaves the pouch of a strangled Jaffa. In the last scene of the original cut, we see Kawalsky walk down the ramp from the gate, glare frighteningly into the camera, and then his eyes glow. This sets the stage perfectly for the following episode, ‘The Enemy Within’. In the new cut, these very important developments are gone! We see the Jaffa get strangled and go down, we see Kawalsky help his teammate, Casey, get up and through the gate, but the moment when the symbiote is supposed to leap and enter the back of Kawalsky’s neck never happens! Then the Pilot ends before Kawalsky is seen leaving his place behind SG-1 on the ramp.
So how do new fans who see this cut instead of the original reconcile with Kawalsky’s infection and demise? The only explanation they will get is Kawalsky’s own words in ‘The Enemy Within’: “I was here. We’d just come back through from Chulak. I thought it was just from coming back through the Stargate. We were helping that kid, Casey was his name. It was a sharp…Oh, God, Jack. I thought I wrenched my neck.” Will new fans buy this? Did the producers make this change in order to ramp up the fear by making it seem easier to get infected with a Goa’uld than before?
As Brad Wright put it in the commentary and also in the DVD extras, these changes were made to make the pilot less like a TV series pilot and more like a standalone TV movie. While this makes sense, it doesn’t change the fact that it plays havoc with the first episode of the series. Brad also acknowledged that not all fans are going to be happy about the changes he opted to make, but despite this he believes he did a very good thing. In my humble opinion, the new material and audio commentary makes this DVD a must have for any Stargate Fan, but the omissions make me want to create my own edit just so I can have my cake and eat it too!